John Wheeler: Could Martian life have ruined their planet's atmosphere?

Had these microbes been successful as a life form, they would have sent Mars into an Ice Age climate.

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FARGO - A study recently published in Nature Astronomy shows that it is possible that microbial life in Martian soil could have changed the chemical makeup of the Red Planet's atmosphere in a way to have caused the demise of Martian life long before it could have advanced. The study is based entirely on computer modeling and not on an actual discovery of life. The study begins with the premise that four billion years ago, Mars may have had large water oceans under a hydrogen-rich atmosphere.

According to the study, it is feasible that Martian soils at this time could have contained microbes that consumed hydrogen and produced methane in the process. The methane, a heat-trapping gas, would have kept the Martian atmosphere warm. Had these microbes been successful as a life form, they would have consumed enough of the hydrogen to radically change the chemical processes in the atmosphere, plunging Mars into an Ice Age climate.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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